Last edit: December, 2015
One of the most valuable assets any online property will hold is its email list. Generally built up over a period of time, an email list represents the most loyal list of visitors to your site who have chosen to engage with you on a deeper level than most who simply pass through. Email is a cost-efficient way to better monetize your site, whether you’re selling a product, running display ads, or driving visitors towards affiliate links.
Given the importance of a large, quality email list to any online business, the selection of an email provider becomes a very key decision. There are a number of providers out there, each offering generally similar products that are differentiated by price, ease of use, and level of customization (among other things).
Because each site is so specialized, it’s impossible to make a universal recommendation. Different sites can have very different experiences with these providers, depending on how they are being used. So you’ll see articles like these show up side-by-side in the search results: There are a number of factors that go into choosing the best email providers, and the priority of these factors to you will determine which is the best choice. We get a lot of emails daily, asking “What’s better: aweber vs mailchimp” so we’re happy to tell you who we use (and why), but first we’ll explain the different characteristics that you should consider.
To say that being able to deliver your messages to your audience is important is obvious. But it’s not necessarily a slam dunk; achieving perfect deliverability can be a challenge if you pick the wrong email service provider (ESP).
Why It’s Important: As email providers have ramped up efforts to keep unwanted email from their users’ inboxes, the percentage of commercial email that actually makes it to the inbox has dipped a bit. By some accounts, the overall deliverability rate is about 76%–meaning that one out of four emails doesn’t make it to the desired inbox.
Ultimately, the ESP’s reputation has a big impact on the willingness of Gmail, Hotmail, and others to let their messages get to the inbox. So the spam complaints from other clients of an ESP hurt everyone using that ESP, which is why many of these companies make such an effort to only work with quality partners and prevent companies who are buying email lists from using their server.
Who’s Best: The general sentiment has historically been that AWeber has the best deliverability rates in the industry. However, MailChimp and GetResponse also have delivery rates in the high 90s and have basically pulled even in this regard. You won’t notice much difference between these “Big Three” in terms of email deliverability, but be cautious if switching to a smaller provider.
Depending on how you plan to push visitors to become newsletter subs, the convenience and flexibility of ready-made signup form options may be an important consideration.
Why It’s Important: An ideal email service provider would make it as easy as possible to get new members on to your list. While the technical side of adding subscribers is relatively easy and standardized–at least among the major providers–there are some differences in the assistance they offer from a stylistic and marketing perspective.
Having a signup form that both looks good and captures all the fields you want is important. Depending on the theme and styling of your site, you may like one of the following much more than the other:
Who’s Best: MailChimp has about 30 fields that can be included along with email address in their forms. They also have an interface that makes creating custom forms to blend with a site’s theme pretty straightforward.
MailChimp has generally been ahead of the competition in all things design, from responsive templates to a more user-friendly dashboard for creating campaigns. If your design and HTML skill set is limited, MailChimp is probably going to be the way to go.
Unless you have an unlimited budget, pricing matters.
Why It’s Important: When you’re only sending a few thousand emails a month, the price you’re paying to do so probably isn’t all that important. But if and when you grow your list to require millions of emails on a monthly basis, email can become a major expense.
Who’s Best: Each provider has different tiers and pricing models, so a direct comparison is tough.
For MailChimp, the monthly fee for fewer than 50,000 subscribers depends only on the number of subscribers:
P.S. MailChimp have changed this up a bit to make your life easier. There are more in-between options, i.e. 2,800-5,000 subscribers are now $50 so you don’t have to pay $75 right away for the 10,000 plan.
For AWeber, the pricing schedule looks like this: And for GetResponse it’s as follows: For unlimited emails to 25,000 subscribers, here’s what you’d pay in monthly fees:
In other words, there isn’t much difference for smaller volumes. MailChimp pricing scales based on both number of subscribers and emails sent at higher levels. If you have a large number of subscribers and/or a large number of emails sent per month, here are some price points:
|Subscribers||Monthly Emails||Monthly Cost|
Some sites may not use autoresponders at all, but those looking to drive subscribers to a higher level of membership or market their existing content will use this feature regularly.
Why It’s Important: If you plan to use a pre-set email campaign to highlight other products and services to your subs, having a good autoresponder is vital. (For more on this topic, check out our guide on email monetization.)
Who’s Best: All major email platforms have good autoresponder options. If you’re going to be setting up a basic autoresponder, there is very little difference between providers.
If you’re looking to get more sophisticated–for example, sending different autoresponders to different types of subscribers–then the additional functionality available through MailChimp may be useful. Specifically, the integration with Mandrill can come in handy if you’ll be sending any type of transactional email.
Ease of Integration
If you’re looking to send basic newsletters and autoresponders, you probably won’t be too concerned with integrating other tools into your email.
Why It’s Important: If your plans for email go beyond a simple RSS newsletter delivery tool, you’ll want to make sure you have a platform that plays nice with others. Depending on your plans for email marketing, you may want to select a platform with easy integration to other services such as social media, survey tools, coupon codes, and order confirmations.
Who’s Best: MailChimp is generally viewed as having the easiest platform to integrate with other apps and tools.
Check out their Integration Directory to get the full picture; if you’ll want to integrate your email with one or many of these tools, you’d be wide to research the ease of making this connection before signing up.
Perhaps the biggest variance among the major providers is perhaps in the level of support and service provided.
Why It’s Important: In setting up, integrating, and maintaining a smooth email marketing campaign even the most tech-savvy publishers are likely to have a few questions or run into a few roadblocks. Being able to get in touch with someone at the company who can answer your question can both calm your nerves and help you be more productive with your email campaigns.
Who’s Best: AWeber is generally applauded for having great support; they have live customer support via phone for 12 hours a day during the week and 8 hours on the weekend.
MailChimp, on the other hand, only has email customer support. If you need help immediately, that doesn’t do much good.
If your site relies on affiliate marketing as a primary source of revenue, you may want to do a bit of additional homework.
Why It’s Important: If you monetize your traffic through affiliate marketing, you’ll obviously want an email provider that doesn’t place any restrictions on your ability to include affiliate links in your emails.
Who’s Best: MailChimp is definitely the harshest on affiliate marketers. Though they don’t ban affiliate links completely, they will shut you down if you’re sending emails that contain links to any of their blacklisted domains (a list that just so happens to include a lot of merchant sites).
Our Official Recommendation
We use MailChimp to power both our newsletters that gets sent out to members. Though our email needs are relatively basic–we only have one newsletter and one autoresponder sequence–the option to integrate a number of different apps in the future is certainly appealing. For now, the ease of use and design factors are the most important considerations. Though we think a lot about email, that time is spent mostly on strategy and not on the technical set up of campaigns. For us, MailChimp costs about the same as other major platforms but saves us time with easier design and campaign set up features.
In the past, we’ve also used Feedburner, Constant Contact, iContact, and have even sent emails in a somewhat more manual method using Easy Mail Merge and MS Outlook (though, that was way back in the day). We have found MailChimp to be better than any of those.
Of course, MailChimp might not be the best ESP for every site; you don’t have to search that hard to find articles explaining why other sites prefer other providers. For those who need better support or reporting, other providers may be a better fit. Here are five recent articles making the case for another email provider:
- How to Choose Between AWeber and MailChimp
- Why I Switched to AWeber for My Blog’s Email List
- Why After Three Years I Dropped Mailchimp as My Newsletter Service for AWeber
- GetResponse Review: Why I Switched From Aweber (affiliate review)
- Neil Patel on choosing GetResponse for his business (video)
One word of caution in relying on reviews you find online: check the publish date. Most complaints and comparisons made a few years ago are likely irrelevant now, as all the major email providers have evolved and improved quite a bit in recent years.
After making a number of improvements to the service in the past few years, MailChimp stands out as the leading email service provider to us. But different sites will have different needs; evaluate your site plans based on the criteria above, and determine which is best for your business. MailChimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers so why not click here and get started today?